This robot will explore Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain 12,000 feet below the surface and 80 miles southwest of Monterey. Sonja Hutson/KQED
This robot will explore Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain 12,000 feet below the surface and 80 miles southwest of Monterey. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

PHOTOS: Robots To Go 12,000 Feet Under the Ocean to Study Underwater Mountain

PHOTOS: Robots To Go 12,000 Feet Under the Ocean to Study Underwater Mountain

1 min

Marine scientists are embarking on a 10-day research expedition on Sunday to a previously unexplored part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary with the help of two remote-controlled robots.

The Nautilus, a 211-foot research boat, will carry a 31-person science team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the non-profit Ocean Exploration Trust to study sea life on the Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain 80 miles southwest of Monterey. The mountain is 7,480 ft. tall, and its peak is 4,101 ft. below the surface, meaning the sea life the scientists are hoping to study are nearly 12,000 feet down.

That's where Argus and Hercules come in.

The two remote-controlled robots will be launched from the Nautilus—Argus will be attached to the boat by a cable, and Hercules will float below it, recording video and collecting samples of coral and small animals with its robotic arms.

The scientists aboard the ship will monitor and control the robots from a room above the deck of the Nautilus. The feed from the robots will be livestreamed online.

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"Humans have been able to go this deep for quite some time," says lead scientist Chad King, "but today it doesn't make sense to send humans down. Why risk it when we have the technology to send these robots that people can command and control virtually from a control room while essentially we just sip our coffee in the safety of a dark room?"

The scientists are hoping to capture images of colorful coral and exotic-looking animals. Last month, the Nautilus was on another mission and recorded images of a purple Gulper eel that went viral online.

"So we're hoping to run into that kind of charismatic fauna," King said.

The Nautilus docked at San Francisco's Embarcadero. The 211-foot research boat will carry scientists and two robots on a 10-day expedition to a previously unexplored part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)
Expedition leader Dwight Coleman (R) stands behind Hercules, a remote-controlled robot, which will be lowered 12,000 feet below the ocean by a cable to record video and collect samples of coral and small animals.
Expedition leader Dwight Coleman (R) stands behind Hercules, a remote-controlled robot, which will be lowered 12,000 feet below the ocean by a cable to record video and collect samples of coral and small animals. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)
Samples of coral and small animals will be stored in these canisters on Hercules over the course of its 10-day mission. The robot will be exploring parts of Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain 80 miles southwest of Monterey, which have never been explored before.
Samples of coral and small animals will be stored in these canisters on Hercules over the course of its 10-day mission. The robot will be exploring parts of Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountain 80 miles southwest of Monterey, which have never been explored before. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)
Gauges and a large light are part of the inner workings of the Hercules robot.
Gauges and a large light are part of the inner workings of the Hercules robot. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)
The robots, Argus and Hercules, will be monitored and controlled from this room aboard the Nautilus. The room is intentionally kept dark to mimic the darkness of the deep sea, so scientists' eyes can properly adjust to the images on the screen. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)
The Hercules robot is propelled by a turbine (upper left).
The Hercules robot is propelled by a turbine (upper left). (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

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